Building Information Modelling

in practice

Recent posts about BIM

We believe that BIM can bring real value to everyone in the construction industry - not just to large organisations. Our goal is to provide a practical and reliable source of information on diverse BIM topics, to help you understand and better implement Building Information Modelling.

Push or Pull BIM?

13. June 2019
There is still we have lot to learn about BIM. And there are some old ways of working that we have to ‘unlearn’. We need to retrain ourselves to adapt our business processes to benefit from the opportunities that digitalisation offers us. A case in point is the delivery of information. We know that information is at the core of our BIM processes, however, the way in which this information is delivered has to be transformed. In the past, we were accustomed to a push system. Sure, information was requested, however, in practice the supplier ultimately decided on how this information would be delivered. Hand-over documentation is a good case in point. At facility handover building owners are often inundated with documentation that they needed to sort through and organise. This is true at almost every exchange throughout the design, construction and operation of a facility; be it for development approval, cost estimation etc… Essentially the supplier delivers documentation in the form they choose, and the receiving party is tasked with sifting through the mountain of data to extract the information they actually need. A second challenge is that if information is missing, it is almost impossible to identify. Even as we are progressing to model-based workflows the ‘information push’ has unfortunately remained entrenched in our exchange processes. Of course, in model-based workflows we are not just pushing plans, but also models and other data sources. More often than not, the data exchange has not been customized for its intended use. Exchanged data models often contain ALL project information relevant for all project participants. This is simply overwhelming and unnecessary. In an ideal workflow, a receiving party should request the information that they want and have it delivered to them in a form that is suitable for their use. Model View Definitions (MVDs) support openBIM workflows in delivering information as required. MVDs are filtered views of the IFC schema, built for a specific purpose. For example, I can use the ‘Reference View’ MVD for general coordination, or the ‘Energy Analysis’ MVD for energy simulation. These are use-case specific exchanges. More significantly, it is also possible to create custom MVDs for a specific purpose. mvdXML is a buildingSMART standard to enable building owners and other information receivers to define precisely the information to be delivered to them at a given time. mvdXML is also a means to validate the information that has been delivered. For example, let’s say I am to perform a cost estimation. Using mvdXML I can create a custom MVD that the architect can use to export quantities with the IFC entities and properties that I require. Once I receive the IFC Model View Definition I can use the same mvdXML file to check whether the delivered model does indeed contain all the information that I requested. This is a pull-system with validation! The way BIM was meant to be. For further information see:

The BIM Collaboration Format (BCF)

4. February 2018
The BIM Collaboration Format, or BCF, is one of the most simple and useful standards in the buildingSMART toolkit. BCF exists to track issues as they are identified, reported on and resolved in the course of the BIM process. We spoke in a previous video about the two realms of BIM. On the one side there is a native modelling environment and on the other there is the collaborative environment. Most major issues are identified in BIM coordination meetings, that is in collaborative environment. However, as we are working with IFC model copies, we can’t make any changes here. In the past we would just take screenshoots of the clash or model issue and create a PDF report to send to everyone. This was not a very intelligent way of working. It was also a massive, often uncoordinated, task to track all the issues and check that everyone had delivered on their tasks. Enter BCF. BCF is like the WhatsApp of BIM. It allows you to send model mark-ups, clash reports, and general comments between all project members. Each BCF issue is registered with a unique ID, making it easier to track how many issues are open, who is responsible for what issues, and to see when the issues are resolved. You can also get analytics on how many issues are generated each week and how long they are taking to be resolved. What is particularly cool about BCF is the communication between IFC tools and native modeling software. The BCF will identify exactly which objects are involved in an issue and will even record the screen view. So, when someone opens up a BCF issue in their modelling software they are directed to the exact same view in their model. No need to navigate around the model looking for that one missing electrical socket. When the issue is solved in the modelling software, the BCF is update and this is communicated back to the project manager. So easy. Why didn’t we think of it sooner! Further Resources:

Working with IFC and Model View Definitions

4. February 2018
One of the big fears surrounding BIM is that there is a loss of control. “How can we all possibly work on a single model?” “How do we control who does what, when?” These fears are based on a lot of misunderstandings. BIM is actually a very structured way of working. It’s not just about collaboration and sharing. It’s about defining specific protocols and workflows. openBIM standards, in particular, give us very strict controls for data exchange. In the openBIM workflow there is no single central model that everyone can access and modify as they like. Every project participant has their own model, of which they are the sole author. These models, or copies of them, are then exchanged at agreed intervals. So, we can divide the BIM process into two realms: Firstly, we have the native authoring environment where models are created and edited (this is the private domain of each discipline). Secondly, we have the collaborative environment where IFC copies of these models are viewed and coordinated. In this setup, no-one can access or change the model content of another discipline. There are clear lines of communication. If changes to a model are required, these are tracked and reported on. This was discussed in a previous video. More than this, in an openBIM workflow, we can predefine exactly what information needs to be transferred when and by whom. This is achieved with Model View Definitions, or MVDs. An MVD is essentially a filtered view of the IFC. It allows users to export specific packages of model information to meet a particular use. For example, if an architect needs to deliver their model for energy analysis, they don’t just do a data dump of the entire model. They select the predefined IFC export called Energy Analysis MVD. This exports only the information that is relevant (the building envelop, spaces and u-values for external walls). Similarly for cost estimation, you would choose the QTO Model View Definition, or for structural analysis, you would export the Structural Analysis view. The Model View Definition is a really powerful tool in the openBIM workflow. It helps enforce clear and structured ways of working. Further Resources:

The buildingSMART Data Dictionary

4. February 2018
BIM supports collaboration and communication through shared information. It’s easy to recognise the value of a shared 3D model to visualise and resolve complex design issues. But BIM is not just about geometry. When we start to get into the heart of the matter, that is the information behind the geometry, things can get a little more complicated. To start with, we need to be very specific about how we name and identify objects and object properties. Different disciplines often use different terms to describe the same thing. What an architect may call “insulation factor”, a building services engineer may call “U-value”. While a product manufacturer may refer to ‘thermal conductivity’. We generally understand these concepts to refer to the same thing, however in BIM we need to much more specific. The main value of BIM is to be able to quickly and reliably search, filter and analyse project information. But when half the objects don’t appear in our search, because they weren’t named properly, this can be pretty frustrating. BIM guidelines and object naming conventions help solve some of these issues. That is a good start, but there is a smarter way to work. buildingSMART has developed the Data Dictionary; an online tool to map synonyms and multiple language translations. It’s sort of like the GoogleTranslate for BIM. This is a tool that works in the background, behind the applications that we use day-to-day. It means, for example, that I can work in my modelling software in English, while someone else can view and use my model in Polish. So how can you access the buildingSMART Data Dictionary? It’s quite a new development and at the moment there are only a few tools that have the Data Dictionary implemented, but the community is growing fast. You can find more information on the link below. The data dictionary is a really good example of how buildingSMART is making standards usable. Breaking down communication barriers and making our work that much easier.   Further Resources:

What is IFC?

4. February 2018
IFC, or industry Foundation Classes, is a standard, some would say the primary standard, for openBIM data exchange. IFC is commonly referred to as an exchange format. This is not entirely correct. Firstly, IFC is a schema, not a format. But that is probably a discussion for another time. Let’s focus on the exchange part. The current IFC workflow doesn’t support data exchange to the extent that I can start modelling in one software, make an IFC export to another application and continue modelling uninterrupted. It’s more accurate to think of IFC as a means of referencing or archiving model content. In the previous video of this series we presented IFC as the PDF of BIM. Like PDF, an IFC file is a frozen copy of the original content. It can be viewed, measured, used for clash detection, cost estimation, simulation and innumerable other uses, but should not be edited. An typical IFC workflow could be the following: An architect creates their design model and exports an IFC version to share with the HVAC engineer. The HVAC engineer can reference this file into their own software and use this for coordination. More than that, the engineer can also use the IFC model as a basis for energy analysis. Which is pretty impressive. The IFC transports enough information for the simulation software to read and analyse the IFC spaces in the referenced model. What the engineer can’t do, however, is make a change to the referenced model. For example, if they want to move a wall, or create an opening in the wall for an air duct to pass through, they must request that change from the architect. The architect, back in their own modeling software, then cuts the opening in their model and issues a new IFC file. It must be said, that it is technically possible to edit an FC model, but that is not the intended workflow. Almost all software that import IFC treat the IFC model as referenced copy of the original design. Some tools allow you to make minor edits to an IFC model. For example splitting a concrete slab element for construction phasing, but this is an isolated activity and has no effect on the original design model. The point is that in an IFC-based workflow each discipline remains author and owner of their model content.   Further Resources:

BIM in Switzerland

15. January 2018
In an interview with Swiss national newspaper, Tagesanzeiger, Mark Baldwin explains how the swiss construction industry is changing. (Source: Smart Media, Tages Anzeiger, 15th January 2018. Text: Matthias Mehl) PDF download for print here Building Information Modeling (BIM) is sustainably transforming the construction industry. In this, experts agree. But what concrete effects this process will have and how Switzerland can assert itself in the digital revolution raises many questions. That’s why we talked to BIM expert Mark Baldwin about the opportunities and challenges of digital architecture – and what mental hurdles the industry must overcome. Mark Baldwin, you are on the board of the Swiss Chapter of buildingSMART and, as head of BIM-Management at Man and Machine Switzerland AG, are engaged with the topic of about Building Information Modeling. What is BIM for you? BIM should be seen in the context of the entire digitalization, which currently covers all areas of the economy as well as private and public life. Simply put, BIM is the digitization of the construction industry. How far is Switzerland in terms of digitalization? The importance of this topic is general understood. In April 2016, the Federal Council passed its “Digital Strategy”. This concerns the digitalization of the entire economy and is not specific to the construction industry. Nonetheless, the strategy is relevant to construction and has a direct impact on its activities. In short, the strategy’s goal is to give Switzerland a leading position in the digital world. BIM plays a key role in bringing the Swiss construction industry to a higher level. But is the Swiss construction industry ready? There is a digital scorecard that assesses Switzerland in different aspects of digitalization. For example, in the field of “basic digital infrastructure” we are very strong and achieve a score of 93 percent. The sectors “ICT” and “International Competitiveness” are also rated very well. Although the construction industry is not specifically analyzed in this index, the assessment of “Industry 4.0” – with a score of just 29 percent – makes it clear that there is still room for improvement. And how far is Switzerland compared to other countries? In my career, I have had the opportunity to observe the development of BIM abroad – in Europe, but also in the Middle East, Asia and Australia. In most of these countries, the BIM methodology is well established. And I have to admit: Switzerland has been a late adopter. So are we already behind in the process? We have to catch up, but Switzerland is certainly on the right track. In the last 18 months, BIM has developed strongly. Now much more is being done – and not just talked about. Are there differences in how BIM is implemented in different countries? Yes there are; and they can be traced back to the respective cultural-differences. In Anglo-Saxon countries, for example, innovation is more driven by pragmatism. One sees potential for improvement and seeks to realize this. In the German-speaking countries, however, and especially in Switzerland, the approach

Five BIM concepts in 2 minutes: BIM, openBIM, IFC, LOD, LOI

21. December 2017
1 BIM BIM, building information modeling, refers to the use of digital models to support the design, construction and operation of buildings. 2 openBIM openBIM describes a method of BIM based on open exchange standards. These support communication between project teams using different software tools. For example, to transfer a model from Autodesk Revit to Allplan. 3 IFC IFC is an exchange format that is at the heart of openBIM. If an architect wants to share his model, he has to make an IFC export from his modeling software, which he can then pass on to other planning partners. 4 LOD – Level of Detail or Development Level of Detail or Development describes the geometric detail of a BIM object at different phases. It is a BIM convention that replaces tradtional conventions of  drawing scale. Instead of 1: 100- 1:10, we talk about LOD100-LOD500. 5 LOI – Level of Information The Level of Information, or LOI for short, describes the information content of a BIM object at a specific time in the project. LOI refers to the properties of an object; for example, dimensions, material specification, insulation, or the costs of the building element.

What is BIM? Building Information Modeling Explained

20. December 2017
We know that BIM is a digital method for planning, construction and operation. But what really sets it apart from 2D or even 3D? 2D planning in CAD is simply a digital version of drawing on a drawing board. We may be able to erase elements more quickly or copy them several times, but the processes are the same. 3D models add volume and surfaces to 2D plans, however, ultimately this is still a drafting process. With BIM, we work with individual building elements that are not only presented in 3D, but also contain information. For example, an object may be tagged with the floor and room number in which it is located. It can also contain information about material specification or cost. Plans, sections and schedules can be produced directly out of the model. In fact, plans are just an extracted view of the model data. A change in the view is immediately updated in all other representations. This helps in managing changes and is one of the first and simplest values of BIM. Furthermore, you can browse and filter the BIM models so that you can view specific information for a specific purpose. An example could be to display all load-bearing walls, or simply to show what has changed from the last planning state to the current one. BIM also allows for analysis and simulation of model information. For example, for static calculations, energy simulations or light and shadow studies. All these possibilities increase efficiency and help us to evaluate and compare design options. BIM does not replace the expertise of designers, but helps eliminate menial, repetitive work. This gives us more time to make the best decisions.

5 Myths about BIM

19. December 2017
At the moment it seems there is nothing BIM can not do! It can be hard to distinguish the facts from the myths. In this video we address some of the most common BIM claims.   BIM is only for big projects No, that is not correct. Of course, the bigger the project, the more involved you are; the coordination of trades becomes more complex and production of plans is more time intensive. However, this is largely a question of scale. We are essentially dealing with the same problems, regardless of the project size. There is a value in digital ways of working, even on small projects. As a company, ask yourself, where are bottlenecks, difficulties, and then see if there are any ways to improve them.   BIM completely changes the way we plan today Yes and no. BIM will change the way, but perhaps not the way you expect it to. BIM does not mean throwing all our existing processes out of the window. Actually, it’s just the opposite. BIM is about creating and improving structures based on the experience we have. The project roles and responsibilities remain identical, but with more communication, clarity and understanding. It’s more helpful to talk about an improvement than to work from a whole new way of working.   With BIM we all work on a single model That’s not true. The idea that all planners can work on a single model is a myth. BIM is not a central model, rather a collection of several different models or databases linked together. The advantage is that every stakeholder remains the owner his model and discipline. Likewise, only he has the opportunity to make alterations. This preserves the traditional ways of communication, the roles and responsibilities.   With BIM I have to change the complete IT and CAD environment That depends on your current environment. Most planning companies already have powerful computers and may have BIM compatible software. The only thing missing is to implement BIM processes. In this case, BIM is more of a business process and investment in employee education than in a completely new IT environment.   BIM works only in collaboration with other planners Not quite. BIG BIM needs the collaboration of planners to share models and information. But also to plan ahead for the future of a project. However, it has to be said that such projects require a certain amount of experience and competence. We therefore recommend starting with BIM as an internal may of working, to improve your own processes. This is called little bim. Once you implemented these processes, then a BIG BIM project is just a small step away.

BIM in Switzerland – recent facts

18. December 2017
Where does Switzerland stand on the subject of BIM? Did you know that the Federal government launched a digital strategy in April 2016? The aim of the “Digital Switzerland” strategy is to position Switzerland as an innovative and future-oriented economic and research location in the digital age. A digital scorecard has been developed assesses the Switzerlands readiness for digitalization in different sectors. We are already very well positioned in the Infrastructure and International Competitiveness sectors, but the so-called ‘Industry 4.0’, with a score of 18%, still has potential for development. Here, the topic of Building Information Modeling plays an essential role for the construction industry. From a Swiss point of view, there are various networks and committees dealing with digitalisation and to which one can orient oneself. Netzwerk Digital (the Digital Network) is a platform representing key industry associations, SIA, CRB, KBOB, IPB and Bauen digital Schweiz that was founded in december 2016 with the aim of coordinating the digital transformation in the planning, construction and real estate sectors. In late 2017, the Swiss Engineering and Architectural Association (SIA) published their BIM Whitepaper on BIM (Merkblatt 2051). The SIA also has a Central Commission for on BIIM. Bauen digital Schweiz (Building Digital Switzerland) is a interest group for all companies and associations relating to the the construction sector. The purpose is to show best practice across the entire value chain and to create appropriate guidelines and templates for the industry. Recently, Digital Switzerland has released a series of resources and practice guidelines. Among other things Switzerland maturity model (Stufenplan), as well as a guidelines for BIM execution plans and contracts. Last but not least there is the buildingSMART. BuildingSMART is the organization that develops the world’s openBIM standards. Among other things, the IFC. Many of the specifications from buildingSMART are ISO standards and are further standardized by CEN and thus also relevant for Switzerland. Switzerland has its own buildingSMART Chapter, through which we are represented in the various groups and can therefore also influence them. When the “Digital Switzerland” strategy was launched in April 2016, Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard said the following, I quote: “Digitalization is a reality, here and now. The conditions for Switzerland to master this change successfully are in place. We have very digital digital infrastructure, we are well educated and we are innovative.” And in the area of ​​BIM, I think we are also on a positive path.

What is openBIM?

4. November 2017
Getting familiar with Building Information Modelling means coming to grips with a host of new terms and acronyms. This can be pretty frustrating at first, however, with a basic understanding things start to fall into place. This video series is designed to presents openBIM concepts in simple language. So, let’s start at the beginning: what is openBIM? openBIM simply means working with BIM using open Standards. Well, what are open Standards? Let me give an analogy explain. To write a report you typically use a word processing application. Maybe, Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. Once the report is complete, you probably want to share it with your audience. Typically, you don’t send out your reports as a native file, you usually publish a PDF copy. There are a number of reasons for this: Firstly, if you send a native file, anyone can make changes to your document without you knowing. Secondly, the native files are proprietary, or closed, formats. This means the receiver needs to have the same application, or a compatible application, to view them. If you issue a PDF, on the other hand, the document can be viewed with a simple PDF viewer. PDF is an open standard. It is a lightweight file, but still has a lot of functionality. The recipient can view the document, search for words, add comments or markups but they cannot change the original text. This PDF workflow is comparable to openBIM. In BIM, we start by creating a model using a commercial modelling software. Here we are working in a native, or proprietary, format. At some stage we want to share our model with the project team. If we issue the native model, the receiving party must have the same or compatible software to view it. They can also make changes to the model without our knowing. However, if we publish the model in an open exchange format, like IFC, the model data is freely viewable – measurable and usable. But the model content is protected. Changes cannot be made in an IFC file. They are made back in the original modelling software. So, let’s recap. Creating model data in a native format is called nativeBIM. If we exchange this model data with an open standard, such as IFC, then we are in openBIM. But, is there a closedBIM? Some people refer to working in a native file format as closedBIM, rather than nativeBIM. This is a little misleading, as it suggests something counter to openBIM. In fact, nativeBIM is the basis for openBIM. You can only start an openBIM process by creating a model in a native format. You don’t create models in IFC, you export them to IFC. And at any stage in a nativeBIM process you can exchange data with open standards and thereby start an openBIM workflow. The term closedBIM, should really only be used to describe a scenario where openBIM Standards are intentionally excluded. For example, where file exchange is exclusively in a native format.
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Team / Authors is run by a young team with diverse industry experience. As construction industry professionals we have been engaged with BIM for over ten years; in project delivery, consulting, training, numerous publications and through organising industry events. In BIMconnect we have come together with a simple goal: to pass on our knowledge and experience in a simple, practical and accessible way.

Mathias Probst

Geomatics Technicisian (Swiss Federal Certificate)

Mathias has been involved with BIM for more than 4 years. As a consultant, he has supported numerous companies with their implementation of BIM. Mathias is active in the Swiss BIM Community and is responsible for organising various events, including the successful SIA BIM Forum, for the Zurich section of the Swiss Architects and Engineers Association.


Mark Baldwin


Architect, BIM Manager and subject matter expert, Mark has been working intensively with Building Information Modelling since 2005. Having worked on major BIM projects in Australia, the Middle East and Europe, Mark now provides BIM Management training and consultancy and leads the buildingSMART International Professional Certification program.


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